Why would someone choose to dedicate years of study and research to student engagement? The simple answer is, “Because it matters”.
For many years as a secondary school teacher I saw the varied behaviour and interest of students in other teachers’ classes and my own. I heard teachers talk about this constantly in the staff room, often without answers to how things could change. As my career progressed from newly qualified teacher to a more experienced teacher these differences in student engagement became more obvious to me.
Why was a student an absolute terror for one teacher but an angel for another? Why did a student do all the homework and involve themselves in extra-curricular activities for one subject and barely pay attention in another? I thought it came down to some teachers’ behaviour management strategies (or lack of) and the resources they used in class (or lack of). It turns out there’s more to it than that.
So, who thinks engagement is important and why should teachers care?
Australian teachers are acknowledged for their “powerful impact on students” by the NSW Education Standards Authority. Basically: teachers are important, and I actually believe we are the key to improving engagement in the classroom.
Renowned educational researcher John Hattie found that teachers accounted for about 30% of the variance in students’ success and achievement in school. There has been speculation that if teachers could have this much impact on students’ achievement, perhaps they could have a similar impact on their engagement (Van Uden, Ritzen, & Pieters, 2013).
Indeed, there is an overlap between the strategies identified in student engagement research and the Australian Professional Teaching Standards (AITSL). Examples of important parallels are: teachers having a knowledge of their students, the use of differentiation, setting challenging learning goals, using a variety of teaching strategies and resources, managing classroom activities and behaviour, and providing feedback to students.
So, not only are teachers recognised by Australian education authorities as having impact in the classroom, they are expected to demonstrate skills that support student engagement as set out by the Professional Teaching Standards.
In 2004, Fredricks and her colleagues assembled a literature review in an effort to explain and define student engagement. What they found was that student engagement “has the potential to link … how students behave, how they feel, and how they think. Ultimately, although engagement might begin with liking or participating, it can result in commitment or investment and thus may be a key to diminishing student apathy and enhancing learning” (p. 83). Improving engagement in our classrooms may be the key to reaching those students that we struggle to teach or connect with.
Tens of thousands of articles have been published on the topic of student engagement. Teachers don’t have the luxury of spare time to read journal articles and research, so perhaps over the course of these blogs I can serve it up in digestible chunks.
So, what exactly is student engagement and how do we promote it in the classroom?
Stay tuned for the next blog. Coming soon… @MeganPedler #teach2engage
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). (n.d.) Australian professional teaching standards. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/standards
Fredricks, J.A., Blumenfeld, P.C., & Paris, A.H. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74, 59-109.
Hattie, J. (2014). Visible Learning for Teachers. London, United Kingdom; Taylor & Francis Ltd.
NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA). (2018). Australian professional standards for teachers. Retrieved from https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/wcm/connect/8658b2fa-62d3-40ca-a8d9-02309a2c67a1/australian-professional-standards-teachers.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID=
Van Uden, J.M., Ritzen, H., & Pieters, J.M. (2013). I think I can engage my students. Teachers’ perceptions of student engagement and their beliefs about being a teacher. Teaching and Teacher Education, 32, 43-54.